THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
The Division Bodies Gather
At that time, the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva began gathering in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven from billions of inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds. They came from wherever hells are found.
Due to the spiritual powers of the Thus Come One, each came from his own direction and was joined by thousands of billions of nayutas of those who had obtained liberation from the path of karma. All brought incense and flowers as offerings to the Buddha.
Those groups who came were irreversible from AnuttarasamyaksamBodhi because they had been taught and transformed by Earth Store Bodhisattva.
For long eons they had wandered in birth and death, undergoing suffering within the six paths without even temporary respite. Now they had reached various levels of sagehood, due to the great compassion and deep vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva.
They felt joyful as they arrived at the Trayastrimasha Heaven and gazed at the Thus Come One, their eyes not leaving him for a moment.
Chapter 2: The Division Bodies Gather . The Earth Store Sutra consists of three rolls and a total of thirteen chapters, this is the second chapter.
Division Bodies. How does a body divide up ? Division Bodies can be said to be Divided Spirits, it can also be said to be Divided Natures or Divided Minds. Why are they call ed Divided Spirits? It is because Bodhisattvas have a kind of spiritual sense or intuition. When they “connect with that spiritual sense, all prayers are answered.” This kind of spiritual sense resembles, “a thousand reflections of the moon in a thousand ponds of water; ten thousand miles of clear sky across ten thousand cloudless miles.” With a thousand pools, there are a thousand reflections of the moon in these bodies of water. The moonlight on these pools is the Spirit, as well as the Nature, or it can be said to be the Body or the Mind. Because there are bodies of water, there are reflections of the moonlight; without bodies of water, the moon remains essentially undivided. Where there is a body of water, there is moonlight; does that mean a portion of the moon is there in the water? No. Nevertheless, water allows moonlight to show. Therefore, it is said, “a thousand reflections of the moon in a thousand ponds of water; ten thousand miles of clear sky across ten thousand cloudless miles.” – If ten thousand miles of land have no clouds overhead, that ten thousand miles of land is bright and sunny.
Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Division Bodies originally do not exist. Why do we say there are Division Bodies? Because of living beings’ conditions, there are Division Bodies. What are these Division Bodies like? Let me give you another simple analogy. Division Bodies resemble photographs. It starts with one person , ; after taking a picture, a picture comes out. So, the image in the picture has no ability, no spiritual sense and no life; however, the Division Bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva are divisions of his Body, which are the same as his original Body. There are “billions of billions of Division Bodies”. Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Division Bodies are such that when he sees a place with hells, he sends a body to that hell to teach and transform living beings. Everywhere throughout the three thousand great thousand worlds, to every place and every corner with hells, he sends Division Bodies there to teach and transform living beings. Because Earth Store Bodhisattva has made vows to teach and transform living beings in the hells, his Division Bodies are everywhere there are hells. This is what it means by Division Bodies.
Gathering is returning, which means the divided bodies have all came back, coming back together, gathering together.
At that time, from billions of inconceivable is this state to be imagined, inexpressible is the number with language, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds, from wherever hells are found, Division Bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva began gathering in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Because wherever there are hells, there is a division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva , ; there are countless Earth Store Bodhisattvas. Therefore there are that many Earth Store Bodhisattvas gathered together at the Heaven of Thirty-Three.
Due to the spiritual powers of the Thus Come One, because of Shakyamuni Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, each division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva came from his own direction and was joined by thousands of billions of nayutas of those who had obtained liberation from the path of karma. Division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva and these living beings all brought incense and flowers as offerings to the Buddha.
Those groups who came with Earth Store Bodhisattva were irreversible from AnuttarasamyaksamBodhi because they had been taught and transformed by Earth Store Bodhisattva. Because of the Bodhisattva’s teaching and transformation, they forever attained irreversibility from the state of Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
They, for long eons, had wandered in the current of birth and death floating up and sinking down resembling waves, dying after being born and being born after dying -- birth and death in cycles like tides. Theyunderwent immeasurable suffering within the six paths without even temporary respite. Because of the great compassion and deep vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva: “I will not become a Buddha until the hells are emptied; I will only attain Bodhi after all beings have been saved.” Those individuals had reached various levels of sagehood, such as first stage, second stage, third stage, fourth stage Arhat or other stages of sagehood.
Now they felt great joy as they arrived at the Trayastrimasha Heaven and gazed at the Thus Come One, their eyes not leaving him for a moment. They gazed at Shakyamuni Buddha with one heart and mind, without closing their eyes for a moment; this is an act of supremely earnest respect.
At that time, the World Honored One stretched forth his golden-colored arm and rubbed the crowns of all the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva gathered from billions of inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds, and said, “I teach and transform obstinate beings such as these within the evil worlds of the Five Turbidities, causing their minds to be regulated and subdued so that they renounce the deviant and return to the proper. But one or two out of ten still cling to their bad habits. For them I again divide into thousands of billions of bodies and use numerous additional expedient means. Those with keen roots will listen and immediately believe. Those with good rewards will respond to exhortation and strive to succeed. Those who are dim and dull will only return after being taught for a long time. Those whose karma is heavy will fail to show any respect.
“My division bodies take across and liberate all those different kinds of beings. I may appear in a male body. I may appear in a female body. I may appear in the body of a god or dragon. I may appear in the body of a spirit or ghost. I may appear as a mountain, a forest, a stream, a spring, a river, a lake, a fountain, or a well in order to benefit people. I use all these ways to save beings. I may appear in the body of God Shakra. I may appear in the body of Lord Brahma. I may appear in the body of a Wheel-Turning King. I may appear in the body of a lay person. I may appear in the body of a national leader. I may appear in the body of a prime minister. I may appear in the body of an official. I may appear in the body of a Bhikshu, a Bhikshuni, an Upasaka, an Upasika, and so forth up to the body of a Hearer, an Arhat, a Pratyekabuddha, or a Bodhisattva in order to teach and rescue beings. It is not that I appear to them only in the body of a Buddha.
At that time, Shakyamuni the World Honored One stretched forth his golden-colored arm and rubbed the crowns of all the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva gathered from billions of inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds. Using one arm to rub the crowns of all these division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva is the Buddha using the “as you wish” body –- a spiritual penetration that makes wishes come true. Although there is only one arm, it can transform into hundreds and thousands of arms. The Buddha used it to rub the crowns of hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of Earth Store Bodhisattvas at the same time and said, “I teach and transform obstinate beings such as these within the evil worlds of the Five Turbidities… The five turbidities are the turbidity of kalpa, the turbidity of views, the turbidity of afflictions, the turbidity of beings and the turbidity of lifespan. Who are the obstinate beings? Perhaps it is you, perhaps him or her. It is anyone who is obstinate, anyone who does not listen to the teachings, and anyone who is always naughty and does not follow the rules. The obstinate beings are those who do not observe the rules, in fact, who prefer no rules. For example, someone’s child once asked me, “Why are there rules?” You can tell that even this child would rather be free of any rules, which is a result of adults’ rejections of rules. Thus the ones not willing to follow rules are the obstinate beings. They are so obstinate that they do as they please.
It is not easy to get these obstinate beingsto voluntarily obey, Causing their minds to be regulated and subdued… What does it mean by regulated? For example, American cooking places no emphasis on seasoning, disregarding the flavors. However, Chinese cooking especially focus on regulating the flavors, using sourness, sweetness, bitterness, spiciness to modify the flavors until the food becomes very delicious. This is the meaning of regulated. For example, at the time of the City States, Yi-ya was an expert at creating delicious dishes by mixing sour flavors, sweet flavors, bitter flavors and spicy flavors. Therefore, Mencius said, “Yi-ya understands what my mouth wants.” Yi-ya was a famous imperial chef for the emperor in ancient China.
Subdued means submission, voluntary obedience without objections. No matter what dharma you speak of, they listen and accept all Buddhist teachings without a bit of doubt or objection. This is being subdued.
It is not that there are no new arhats, that no one is enlightened during the five hundred years after the Buddha’s Nirvana. Actually someone can become enlightened, at any place and any time; an arhat can be anywhere and at any time. However, an enlightened arhat should avoid displaying spiritual powers or interfere with others’ business. For example, Indian Dharma Masters Muo Teng and Zhu Fa Lan in China had spiritual powers. Even Bodhidharma the Patriarch, who was born thousands of years after the Buddha’s Nirvana, or Elder Master Hsu Yun (Empty Cloud), who is a contemporary and preeminent Chinese monk are all arhats, Bodhisattvas. Not only are they arhats; they are at the state of Bodhisattvas. The same with Vinaya Master Hong Yi and Elder Dharma Master Ying Guang of recent times. Elder Dharma Master Ying Guang is commonly recognized as a manifestation of Great Strength Bodhisattva in China. After the Buddha entered Nirvana, China has had many individuals with great virtue. Even five hundred years, one thousand years, ten thousand years after the Buddha entered Nirvana, anyone who truly cultivates according to the Buddha’s teachings will reach sagehood, will become enlightened.
So that they renounce the deviant view and deviant knowledge and return to the proper view and proper knowledge. But one or two out of ten still cling to their bad habits; they have not completely removed them yet. For them, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, again divide into thousands of billions of bodies and use numerous additional expedient means, setting up many many Dharma Doors.
Those with keen roots , meaning people with deep and profuse good roots, will listen and immediately believe. They are brilliant and sharp and have much wisdom. Once they hear the Dharma spoken, they believe it.
Those with good rewards will respond to exhortation and strive to succeed. Maybe they have done good deeds in their past lives, planted causes that lead to favorable consequences; they will respond to the eager pleading to succeed. Eager pleading is not like persuading someone just once, it is like when we have the intention to deliver someone (to salvation; we do not just try once and give up. If it does not work on one try, we try again. If it does not work the second time, we keep trying. For example, for people living far away, you need to write more letters telling them about the Buddhadharma. For people living close by, you should interact with them more often and explain the Buddha’s teachings to them. Volunteer to convert people instead of being converted. For instance, originally you wanted to convert someone to believe in the Buddha, but then he pulls you into Christianity. Originally you were going to convert people to Buddhism, but you end up being turned by others and start believing in Catholicism. This is about being converted.
If you can convert others, you have some power of concentration. If you are converted by others, you have no power of concentration. So eager pleading means not being lazy. For example, we can think about friends who are good to us and which relatives are very kind, and then encourage them to study the Buddhadharma. So, eager pleading is not about persuading once only but persuading multiple times. If this time I did not encourage enough so that you understand, I will do it again and again. In other words, volunteer to convert others into believing in Buddhism and continue to do so until they become Buddhas. Vows are fulfilled that way.
Those who are dim and dull , lacking in wisdom, will only return after being taught for a long time. A long time means a long period of time, not merely once, twice, three times or five times.“Eager pleading” is about the number of times. Whereas “a long time” can mean two days, three days, five days, one month, two months, three months, five months, one year, two years, three years, or five years’ time to convert you. I will remain committed to a long-term goal to teach you, persisting until you believe in the Buddha. This is about teaching someone a long time until he or she returns, such as taking refuge with the Triple Jewel.
Those whose karma is heavy will fail to show any respect. They fundamentally do not respect Buddhism. All those different kinds of beings are unique. Every person has his or her own causes and effects, karmic responses, and various differences. To take across and liberate all these living beings, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, also divide into many division bodies.
I may appear in a male body to cross over these living beings. I may appear in a female body. I may appear as a handsome man to save all women. Or I may appear as a beautiful woman to save all men. Because Buddhas also understand living beings’ desires, i.e. living beings take pleasure in the subject of men and women. The Buddhas manifest and teach living beings according to their potential. I may appear in the body of a god or dragon to save gods and dragons. I may appear in the body of a spirit or ghost. Shakyamuni Buddha may appear in the body of a god with great awesome virtue or a great ghost king.
I may appear as a mountain, a forest, a stream, a spring, a river, a lake, a fountain, or a well in order to benefit people. You see! Earth Store Sutra says a mountain or a forest, a stream or a meadow are all transformations of Tathagata’s Dharma Body. Perhaps we are sitting on Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma Body right now but we do not realize it. For example, the Buddhas made San Francisco appear a long time ago to benefit living beings, so that people may live here. Although the sutra only mentions how the Buddhas make mountains, forests, streams, and meadows appear, do not presume that the plains are not the Buddha’s Dharma Body. The plains are too. Perhaps we are sitting on top of the Buddha’s Dharma Body now? Why do we not see the Buddha’s Dharma Body? It is because we are like ants on the ground or ants on a human body that do not see the whole body of the person. Since we are like tiny bugs on the Buddha’s Dharma Body, we do not know where his Dharma Body is. In reality, we are on his Dharma Body but do not know it. Shakyamuni Buddha may make a river, a pond, a spring, or a well appear. In general, why do Buddhas manifest such things? It is to benefits people.
I use all these ways to save beings… The Buddhas make a mountain appear, so as you take a walk in the mountains and absorb some of the energy there, your Bodhi resolve comes forth. Or you may breathe some fresh air in the forest without realizing that this is the air of the Buddha’s Dharma Body. All air in space is the Buddha’s qi. Breathe in the Buddha’s qi and you will definitely become enlightened. Do not be attached to the idea that no one will become enlightened 500 years after the Buddha’s nirvana. Even 5,000 years after the Buddha’s nirvana, people will become enlightened. The only worry is that you do not truly cultivate. If you truly cultivate, I can guarantee you will definitely become enlightened. Or you can buy some insurance first. When you get enlightened, I will pay you a certain amount of money. Even though you bought insurance earlier, once you became enlightened, you would not want that money, so I would still end up with the profits.
The Buddhas may manifest as a river, so that you feel comfortable bathing in the river, and then become enlightened. Shakyamuni Buddha may manifest as a pond or a well. Drink the water from the well and your commitment to this path grows day after day. These are all inconceivable states. In summary, every action and every move of the Buddha is to benefit people so that they are liberated.
Shakyamuni Buddha may appear in the body of God Shakra. While meditating, God Shakra comes to bowto you and say he is Shakra from the heavens. Why does he bow to you? He wants you to develop solid commitment to this path and courageous vigor. He may appear in the body of Lord Brahma or the body of a Wheel-Turning King. A Wheel-Turning King has various treasures. He has a flying vehicle. Traveling in rockets to the moon takes a long time now, but a Wheel-Turning King’s flying vehicle can travel through the three thousand great thousand worlds within an hour. Actually, not only to the moon and different planets, but he can reach any place just as fast. He also has a treasure of jewels. No matter where he is, when a Wheel-Turning King says, “I need money”, the ground will break open with as much gold as he wants, as many jewels as you want. Why do these things occur? Because of his blessings, he owns everything in the world, including all the jewels which are in place for him. He also owns a treasure that is a horse that travels faster than rockets. He owns a treasure that produces women spontaneously. A Wheel-Turning Sage King likes women. He has such terrific blessings that he gets whatever he wants. Anything he wishes, he gets. He never experiences the suffering not getting what he wants. The Buddha makes an awesome body of a Wheel-Turning Sage King appear so that all beings see the way he looks and bring forth their resolve for Bodhi.
The Buddha may appear in the body of a lay person. Perhaps one of you laypeople is a manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha, but we do not know. Don’t think it is impossible. Laity can be part of this too.He may appear in the body of a national leader, such as an emperor,or in the body of a prime minister, the highest official. He may appear in the body of an official. He may appear in the body of a member of the fourfold assembly, a Bhikshu, a Bhikshuni, an Upasaka, or an Upasika, and so forth up to the body of a Hearer, an Arhat, a Pratyekabuddha, or a Bodhisattva in order to teach and rescue beings. Although the Buddha appears in various bodies, none is not for the transformation of living beings. It is not that Shakyamuni Buddha appears only in the body of a Buddha to transform and liberate beings.
“Reflect on how I have toiled for repeated eons and endured acute suffering to take across and free stubborn beings who resist being taught and continue to suffer for their offenses. Those not yet subdued undergo retributions according to their karma. If they fall into the evil destinies and are enduring tremendous suffering, then you should remember the gravity of this entrustment I am now making to you here in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Find ways to liberate all beings in the Saha world from now until the time when Maitreya comes into the world. Help them escape suffering forever, encounter Buddhas, and receive predictions.”
Reflect on how I have toiled for repeated eons , an unknowable long period of time, and endured acute suffering… You see, Shakyamuni Buddha does not have time to be lazy; this is toil. Suffering means the absence of joy. Toiling and suffering means not being lazy and not seeking happiness. Why? To take across and free stubborn beings who resist being taught and continue to suffer for their offenses. Do not think that these stubborn beings who resist lessons do not include us. Actually you and I are among these stubborn beings. Do you realize how much thought and energy Shakyamuni Buddha has spent to teach and transform us, to liberate us? Yet we ourselves do not know shame and proudly think it is no big deal, “Me! It’s OK! It’s fine for Shakyamuni Buddha to work a little bit harder. I don’t want to learn Buddhism now. I don’t want to cultivate. I want to be a little lazy, sleep a little bit more.” We reason and argue for ourselves, being our own defense attorney. Those not yet subdued, not yet liberated, undergo retributions according to their karma. When they fall into the evil destinies, which are the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts and the realm of animals, and are enduring tremendous suffering, then you should remember and think about the gravity of this entrustment I am now earnestly making to you here in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Find ways to liberate all beings in the Saha world from now until the time when Maitreya comes into the world. Help them escape all suffering forever, encounter Buddhas, and receive predictions of themselves becoming Buddhas.
Now let’s talk about Elder Master Ying Guang. He is a native of Shanxi Province in China. After he received the precepts, he went to Potola Mountain for a secluded retreat. His retreat consisted of reading sutras all day. He read the sutras with utmost respect, sitting perfectly upright. He would change into a different set of clothing and shoes for the restroom. After he is done in the restroom and finishes cleaning himself, he puts on his clothes for reading the sutras. Even if the restroom is very clean, he nevertheless changes clothes. He never dresses in the attire worn while reading sutras to the restrooms, and he never wears the restroom clothes into the sutra room. He read the sutras respectfully everyday. He lived at the Potola Mountain, Guanyin Bodhisattva’s wayplace, for eighteen years, reading the sutras everyday and never taking one day’s break. After reading the sutras for eighteen years, he went to Nanjing to lecture on the Amitabha Sutra. Imagine the scene of the Amitabha Sutra lecture. A greatly virtuous and preeminent monk lectures to an empty house. He was pleased that someone was so attentive and asked, “Do you understand what I explain?” He asked in his Shanxi accent.
This person said, “Oh! Dharma Master, I don’t understand.”
“You don’t understand? What are you doing here?” he said.
This person said, “I am waiting for you to finish speaking the Sutra so I can put the benches away. I am the bench-keeper, not an audience member for the sutra lectures.”
Ah! The elder Dharma Master was very sad to hear this, and he swore to never lecture on the sutras in Nanjing again. See! No one listened to the sutra lectures except for one person, who waited because he was the bench-keeper.
Later Shangha’s Forest of Laity invited him to speak on the Amitabha Sutra. He went to Shanghai to speak the Sutra. This time, the audience was large instead of non-existent. Since Buddhism was not thriving in Nanjing, no one will know about or attend the sutra lectures without advertisements, even if it was by a greatly virtuous and preeminent monk such as Dharma Master Ying Guang.
In Shanghai, however, some disciples who took refuge with him advertised their master’s sutra lectures. “Come and listen! Come and listen!” They got all the Buddhists together to listen to the Dharma. There was one 18, 19 or 20 year-old student among them. She was not a Buddhist, but she dreamt one night about someone telling her, “Go to the Forest of Laity to listen to sutra lectures! Great Strength Bodhisattva is there propagating the Buddhadharma, explaining the Amitabha Sutra!” The next morning, she read the newspapers, and read that Elder Master Ying Guang was going to lecture on the Amitabha Sutra at the Forest of Laity. “How strange! How come I dreamt that it was Great Strength Bodhisattva speaking the Amitabha Sutra there?” she thought.
She went to listen to the sutra lectures, bringing many classmates with her too. She told these students that she dreamt that this Dharma Master was Great Strength Bodhisattva. She did not know who Great Strength Bodhisattva was so she asked Buddhists, “What is Great Strength Bodhisattva?” They asked her why she wanted to know. She explained that she heard someone tell her in a dream that Great Strength Bodhisattva is at Shanghai’s Forest of Laity speaking on the Amitabha Sutra. These laypeople think, “Oh! This Elder Master is probably Great Strength Bodhisattva come again.” They told Elder Master Ying Guang, “A female student had a dream where she was told that you are Great Strength Bodhisattva and here speaking on the Amitabha Sutra!” The Elder Master said, “Nonsense.” He scolded these people and no one dared to say anymore. Thereafter, this female student took refuge with Elder Master Ying Guang.
That female student was also told in her dream that Great Strength Bodhisattva will stay for three more years. He will then disappear. Indeed, three years later, this Great Strength Bodhisattva, Elder Master Ying Guang, entered nirvana in 1944. It was only after his nirvana that people realized that he was Great Strength Bodhisattva come-again. Elder Master Ying Guang enjoyed copying out the text in the Shurangama Sutra’s “Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration through Mindfulness of the Buddha Chapter” the most. Many laypeople own the Master’s calligraphy on this chapter. Elder Dharma Master Ying Guang is a contemporary enlightened master with great virtue and preeminence. No one can presume that there would be no arhats 500 years after the Buddha’s nirvana, because here we have someone who was not only an arhat, but surpasses arhats! When Elder Master Ying Guang entered nirvana, many shariras appeared after his cremation. Someone who has not attained the fruit of Arhatship or enlightenment will not leave any sharira behind. People with shariras are not ordinary people.